Sunday, May 23, 2010

Staffs Budget Ideology pushes increases in Taxes and Fees

While I have been asking that we immediately talk about reducing costs of city government to meet existing revenues, we again turn back the clock and listened to the old ideological discussion about bringing up revenues to meet existing cost of government PLUS++++. Now this all seems like open and clear government in action.. at it is!.... Staff again wants to increase revenues by raising fees and taxes to support an unsustainable government. If more infrastructure work needs to be done (and it REALLY does), staff suggests we get more fees and taxes from the residents. I have suggested we cut costs in our City Mangers office and other departments to increase spending on our infrastructure. Up until now the opposite has occurred and we have continued to allow our infrastructure spending to fall behind.

Staff is pairing under achieving revenues with over demanding infrastructure costs in an attempt to justifying raising fees and taxes. This is just a government strategy to raise taxes by mental gymnastics accounting instead of simply adjusting revenues to be shared by priority amongst all the expenditure accounts. While we should have a basic plan on understanding the revenue structure in relation to our city expenses, the major emphasis on setting the budget must be the fiscal impact on our residents.

Where is the Knife?? Lets start cutting fellas and ladies.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Was the Right Decision made about Arizona travel?

First of all lets get the facts straight! The administration that made the decision to not let the girls go to Arizona is hired by a board of elected officials and is a representative government of citizens that live in Deerfield, Highwood, Riverwoods, and Highland Park (attendance map). For the citizens or the City of Highland Park to unilaterally take any heat for 113's decision is unwarranted. This was not a Highland Park decision!

The Community of Highland Park is a place I am proud to have spent my entire life raising my children and serving the citizens as a City Councilman. We have a wonderful community that offers a great friendly cultural, historical, and business climate for all area residents to enjoy.

Political diversity and the tolerance of views is what we should teach our children and not lead them by the nose in any direction. Let them be part of the process with their parents. Tolerance and objective reasoning was not demonstrated by this school administration decision process. District 113 had no business putting our community or children in the center of this controversy by representing that their decision to not send the girls represented core values of this community.

I personally do not think any child is unsafe in Arizona and to okay foreign sanctioned visits anywhere over our children's ability to visit places within this country is ridiculous.

We need to deal with our immigration situation on a federal level immediately. Existing illegal residents and future immigrants need to live under a practice and law that supports the need of our country to have immigrant labor. This is mostly just supply and demand but it needs to legally work.

We should learn from this unfortunate situation with our schools and leave these kind of national debates to our citizens that vote and simply promote education, tolerance, and objective reasoning to our children.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Publics Prospect Street End up for discussion

On May 10th the City Council will decide the fate of the Public Street End that overlooks Lake Michigan at Prospect Avenue. Over the past 30 years a license has existed that has kept this publicly deeded property in the control of the adjoining private property owners hands. A fence was erected and access to the bluff edge was prohibited during the past 30 year life of the license.

Good news is that the license has now expired and the disposition of the street end is entirely within the will of the City Council. The City Manager has placed this discussion on the agenda for our next meeting.

Now back in 2007 we put together an amendment to our Greenways Plan that incorporated 12 publicly owned street ends that terminated at the waters edge of Lake Michigan. Prospect Ave. was one of the twelve that we designated for this program. Prospect Ave. was designated for public views of the lake, possible access to the beach, and overall connection of the citizens of Highland Park to experience Lake Michigan in the neighborhoods.

The license that gave private property rights to this public property have expired. It is understood that the adjacent owner wants to renew those rights. I would ask all those citizens of Highland Park that have wishes that these public street ends return and stay in the public hands come to the meeting on May 10th and voice their support for public access. Look on the website after May 6th for time and location of meeting as part of the City Council agenda packet.

Round-Up on Current Issues

I am going to try a new format for general issues that are being discussed to help immerse you in more topics "On The Table". I will still be using old format as well.

1. We are looking to have a new Residential Garbage pickup contract in place in Sept. of this year. Just putting out our RFP asking waste haulers to give us bids. This has been a hot topic in the past and big changes need to happen to keep our volume based system intact. We will be getting larger wheeled recycling toter's as our first priority but they will need to be brought to the street curb for pickup. We are asking for subscription options for those of you that want to keep the current small carts in front of your garage.

2. If you read the paper you mostly know about the HP theater and the fact that the committee was asked to look at renovation options. Recommendation is to not proceed with any major upgrade at this time and to clean up the existing movie theater in ways to increase net revenues. The operating budget is projected to run in the black for 2010.

3.Ravinia Farmers Market permit okay starting June 16th through Oct 27th from 5am-1pm.

4.The Arts Center (TAC) has been given a break on the rent through December of 2010 and modifications on moneys due the city to help them get back on their financial feet. Their default would not serve our community while their mission enriches our life's and community. Please help us promote their success.

5. We saved $70,000.00 by contracting out our street sweeping instead of doing it in house.

6. Received a bid for $254,400 for salt for the 2010-11 season.

7. Okayed contracts of $989,000 for Asphalt and Concrete Street repairs.

8. Our Automobile Boot Law will now cover anyone that receives 5 unpaid parking citations which are over 90 days old.... Pay them tickets or get booted!

9. I have also asked to get the cell phone ban on an agenda as well as talking about the extra payroll last year that cost the city over 500,000 dollars.

10. We talked about the budget and asked staff to present us a balanced budget that was defined by revenues being equal to expenditures. In the past several years money was taken out of reserves to define a balanced budget.

11. All on the City Council except for myself gave the go ahead for a Special Zoning Permit to go directly to staff for approval of variances for extended porches, pillars, and basketball hoops in the required front yards instead of the past practice of notice and public hearing in front of the Zoning Board of appeals . It also moves multiple garage doors to the staff for approval...... Very slippery slope on the vision of how our community front yards will look and will cause friction amongst adjacent neighbors that are asked to sign off. More development and lot coverage policy from staff again! This should be on agenda May 10th.

12. Central (Downtown) District Plan came in front of the City Council for a visioning sign off.... As I told the Mayor and staff, this should be directed and visioned by the City Council first before staff reaches out for citizen involvement. I am open to tweaking a great 2001 plan that is approved but do not want to see Evanston type goals brought to Highland Park. Yes, we can work on small changes that have discouraged redevelopment of needed areas but the goals and vision we set in 2001 is SOLID! While it was a great exercise for our round table participants and many good thoughts emerged, I think it is premature until the Council weighs in on direction.

13. Structures on public property laws will be redefined again on the May 10th agenda. Basically just regular mailboxes approved by the post office will be allowed. Also, 18 inch boulders will be allowed no less than 24 inches from the street edge. Past structures and boulders that are legally existing will be allowed unless they are unsafe.

14. We approved transfer of money to library but I asked for a strong commitment from their President Ken Henry to work with us on consolidation and efficiencies to save the taxpayers money. They committed to work with us across the board.

15. We recognized Dr. Mark Hill and the wonderful students from Elm Place School that participated in Project Citizen and the Sustainable Green School Compact. Our kids are our Future and they will make a difference!

16. We put in a place new multifunction machines that copy, print, and scan. This consolidation and updating has saved us $500 dollars per month on our current contract.

17. Repair of our pedestrian overpass at Central Ave in the amount of $110,170. This upgrading has been phased to lower yearly costs.

18. New laws were passed concerning Group Homes to better address compliance with our local zoning ordinances and best practices. I have been informed that providers for these facilities were part of the process.

19.Worked out a Traffic and Parking agreement with Ravinia Festival to better deal with enforcement to provide reduced neighborhood disruptions.

Spring Cleanup and HP Recycling Options

Remember Spring Clean up is available from the City so put your trash on the curb. City program is described in this link. Also, remember not to throw out recyclables that can be picked up on normal trash days in your recyclable container. One more thing!! Electronics should be taken to the public works drop off site on Tuesday and Friday from 7am until 1pm. Check out best disposal and recycling options at this link.